Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Springsteen's Magic Album

According to my friend Robert, I have a narrow taste in music that is tragically filtered by the corporate music establishment. That all may be well and true, but since it's MY music taste, and since this is MY blog, I get to review music despite my alleged limitations. In fairness, there's nothing alleged about my limitations. I just like to delude myself that I listen to only the finest music.

I have other reservations in reviewing music. I'm forty-five (45) years old. My idea of trendy new bands is Yo La Tengo and the Arcade Fire. It's very possible that those bands have broken up, formed new bands, and cut several albums, and I wouldn't know about it. To borrow from Matt Damon, it's not my fault. It's not my fault. It's not my fault. So whose fault is it?

The Radio's.

That's right, I blame the radio stations -- not my dotardliness -- for thinking that they just don't make music like they used to. When I moved back to Seattle a couple years ago, I tried to find six good stations for the FM1 band (Wendy filled the FM2 channel with awful Jazz stations). Two public stations, check. Classic rock station, check. Oldies station, check. Hipster station? Hmm. 107.7 was still around. It used to play alternative music like Nine Inch Nails and Alice in Chains, but it's turned into some kind of retro alternative music station that still plays Nine Inch Nails and Alice in Chains -- plus talk radio. Adam Carolla is great, but what happened to the trendy new music?

When I heard Bruce Springsteen was coming out with a new album, I was afraid of having the same experience I've always had whenever any of my old 70s heroes comes out with a new album. I'll find a couple of songs I sort of like, but they never seem to have their former power. Hearing a new album by Neil Young or Bob Dylan is like watching Willie Mays play for the Mets or Michael Jordan play for the Washington, um, Wizards (I had to look that up). Bittersweet, but mostly bitter.

Listening to Magic was a blast from the past, and not just because it sounds like vintage E Street music. I have that same joy I used to have back when one of my favorite musicians came out with a new album while still in their prime. When R.E.M. came out with Automatic for the People, when U2 came out with Achtung Baby, when Radiohead came out with OK Computer, I wanted to listen to the album over and over and over. I had to restrain myself so that I wouldn't burn out on it too quickly. Same thing with Magic. I can only listen to it twice a day. When I've waited the designated amount of time, I put on the album again and experience the rapture all over. I'm tempted to buy a different copy of the album because this one is so good.

I'm trying to think of the perfect word for Springsteen's new album. Enchanting? Bewitching? Thaumaturgic? Whatever. I love it.


  1. Springsteen isn't my cup of tea, but I've had other artists and albums affect me as you described and that's one of the wonderful experiences in life. Rock on.

  2. In all seriousness, I flipped on to a few FM radiostations the other day and I was struck by two things:

    1) commercial breaks no last for 5+ minutes.

    2) radiostations aren't really about playing music anymore.

    Interestingly, #2 represents a full circle for the radio. In its infancy and youth it was an information/non-music entertainment medium. As it matured, it became more exclusively a means for musical entertainment, and now in the old-age of broadcast radio, music takes up a minority of air time.

    Who's bruce springsteen?


  3. Right, it seems like the same thing that happened to MTV in the late 80s is happening to radio right now. MTV used to play music videos. Then they looked at their ratings and noticed that shows like Real World got better ratings than videos.

    It isn't necessarily a bad thing to have radio executives determining which music people are listening to. The internet and satellite radio are expanding choices. But I do miss having an alt rock station to listen to in the car. Maybe I'll have to break down and get Sirius.

  4. Oh, and don't ever make a joke like "Who's Bruce Springsteen?" again. He is The Boss. Check out how he gives a jolt to this otherwise bland song:


  5. Yeah, that song is totally different with bruce singing it exactly like the other guy.


  6. Glad to hear Bruce has regained some of that former energy. When I heard he couldn't go 3+ hours on stage anymore, I was getting worried.

    Thaumaturgic?! That's one helluva rabbit to pull out of the hat. I like it.

  7. Radio: Pretty bad these days. In the car I listening to NPR most and sometimes a morning radio show that I find entertaining then sometimes a few 80s, 90s, alt rock stations. NPR is liberally biased (but I'm a big boy and can think for myself so I don't find this that annoying), but at least it's semi-inteligent news and info with a broad list of topics. Music radio is just so overplayed, I go to it when I want to hear the 10 popular (but usually not very good) songs of the week.

    The internet music scene has been refreshing. Musicians have easy access to listeners these days. Of course that also means there's a lot of crap out there to wade through to find a few gems. But the gems I've found Ive enjoyed. (Still not sure if they were worth all the digging.) David Byrne has his playlist online, and while most songs are bit too out there for my taste, they are good quality and I enjoy being exposed to new music.


  8. Steve - Rabbit pulled out of a hat? Ouch. Some puns hurt.

    Kris - David Byrne also has an interesting blog:


  9. i remember once driving to moab with you, and i wanted to listen to bruce sprinsteen (i had recently acquired the box set live thingy), and you and brad decided we couldn't listen to anybody who shouted "ONE TWO THREE FOUR" followed by a lone harmonica playing.

    i've never forgiven you.

  10. I remember that trip to Moab very well. It pains me to say that I used to make fun of Bruce Springsteen. I used to turn my back to an old girlfriend who adored him, stick my lower teeth out, turn my head slowly (and alluringly) around, and say: "I am the bosh." Or I'd jut my lower jaw out and dance in the faux new wave style he used in "Dancing in the Dark," -- when he invited a young Courtney Cox up on the stage to dance with him. He was badly overexposed during that crappy "Born in the USA" period. I still can't listen to that album, by the way.

    What I remember about that trip -- and I think I even admitted it at the time -- was the fact that I really like some of the songs from that live album -- The River in particular.

    Thanks for helping me to overcome my bias against Mr. Springsteen. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

  11. Oops. Was that a pun? All I was trying to say is that I now know the meaning of a new word, thanks to you--one to conjure in lieu of sortilege or prestidigitation.